I was thinking about the NFL Draft on Saturday morning while I was working out. Remember James Morgan? He was a quarterback at Florida International and as the 2020 draft was approaching, he was picking up steam as one of the two or three most promising quarterbacks in that third tier, the guys that were going to go in rounds three, four or five and need at least two seasons to learn the playbook and pace of the pro game before he was a viable starting option.
Morgan had the right frame for scouts to fall in love with. His highlight tape was full of all the right throws – dropping a dime over the receiver’s shoulder, the cross body scramble. You know the routine. As you are trying to parse out who had the better pro day, remember that every single quarterback capable of being drafted can make all these throws.
The New York Jets ended up taking Morgan with the 125th pick. He didn’t see the field at all during the regular season, and that is largely okay. That was kind of the plan. But here we are headed into the 2021 NFL Draft. The Jets traded incumbent starter Sam Darnold to Carolina and the consensus is that the team will use the second overall pick to draft another quarterback. Morgan isn’t even going to get consideration for the job, nor is the team confident enough in what they have seen that they felt like they could resign Joe Flacco as a placeholder and then do something different with the second pick.
You’re in sports radio, so you are not a one-for-one comparison to James Morgan. That doesn’t mean that there still isn’t plenty you can learn from him and the way the Jets and other NFL teams evaluated him.
Well, him and every single other draft prospect really. I really like FIU (class of 2017), so Morgan just sticks out in my mind this way.
Both job seekers and hiring managers can learn lessons here. We’ll get to the specifics in a moment, but it begins with the same fact. Any serious candidate for a job can do the basics well. For quarterbacks, that means leadership and being able to make “all the throws”. For sports radio positions that can mean any number of things depending on what position you are trying to fill. Every host worth hiring can entertain. Every viable PD candidate can coach talent.
For football players, the difference shows up in the game film. Why is Trevor Lawrence clearly the best QB this year? Because on tape you can see his touch, you can see he is calm in the pocket, and you can see the variety of ways he can beat defenders. The tape can also highlight the answers you need. Can Trevor Lawrence read coverage, go through his progressions and make good decisions with the ball? Jaguars brass had to do a little more work there, because playing for Clemson against ACC competition means that Lawrence didn’t have to do that very often.
Do you have a candidate for a PD job that you like, but that person has never scored big ratings wins? You need to find out why and how significant that actually is. Was his/her station on a weak signal? Maybe the station didn’t win ratings battles, but did the station show growth? I don’t just mean in terms of listeners. Did the station show growth on the revenue side? Answers to those questions would help you evaluate how strong of a candidate this person is without relying solely on what numbers from a flawed system tell you.
Every person you talk to about a hosting gig will send you their very best audio. If you like them enough to set up an interview, it means they are compelling and know their stuff. How will each candidate play in your market? What can you expect if you are trying to pair them with one of your established talents? Do they have the kind of inexplicable “it factor” that people just kind of like? That’s why we ask for references and do interviews.
You know the old saying about drafting a quarterback. Guessing wrong can set a team back years (oh, hi there Broncos!). The same is true in our business. The highlights can only tell you so much. Your work isn’t done once you’ve been wowed. The job just changes.
Betting on the wrong leader for a new drive time show could send listeners looking for new options. Bringing in a program director that isn’t open to working on sellable content ideas could hurt revenue. Forget about looking forward and building for the future. Now you have to make changes just to get back to where you were.
Hiring doesn’t have to be hard, but it certainly isn’t easy. Rarely are you in the Jaguars’ position, sitting at the top the NFL Draft with a no brainer staring back at you. Then again, you are not hampered by rules about who you can and can’t get. When you find the ideal candidate, you can make a competitive offer and go to work selling him/her on joining your organization.
For all of the mock drafts and insider punditry, nothing has actually happened yet as far as the NFL Draft is concerned. Before anything does happen, the smart teams will be doing their homework, gaming out the scenarios they could be faced with and doing deep dives on any prospect they are intrigued by to make sure he fits their plans and has a positive impact on the organization.
The NFL Draft is just a job market. So if it is the NFL’s version of posting an opening on the BSM job board, doesn’t it make sense to follow those smart teams’ lead when you are looking to add to your own staff?
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.